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Article 'Willfully Ignorant'

To the editor,

The Chronicle's unresearched article describing as "high-priced drug pushers" the doctors, nurses, licensed clinical social workers, recreational therapist, and the other laboratory, research, and clinical staff of Community Clinical Research is willfully ignorant, full of flat-out lies, horribly insensitive to our patients, and, frankly, libelous ["Drug Dealers Seek Out Downtown Homeless – With Money and Marketing," News, Nov. 26].

For the record, people working for Community Clinical Research engage in none of the recruiting practices which the article catalogues. The most basic investigational reporting would confirm this. We neither go into the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) nor do we stand across the street from it to try to talk residents into participating in clinical trials. If some other research entity does engage in these practices, if they are ethically placing people in clinical trials, they are wasting their time. As the director of the ARCH observes, many shelter residents have drug and alcohol problems in addition to any mental health problems they might have. These drug and alcohol problems should exclude the people who have them from participating in most clinical trials. At Community Clinical Research, we recognize this. We do not go inside the ARCH and bother the residents there.

Community Clinical Research does employ billboards to let the greater Austin area know that we conduct clinical trials for people who suffer from schizophrenia. These billboards harass or "prey upon" no one. An independent institutional review board whose mission is patient-protection reviews and approves their content. Our billboards are informational, not sensationalistic. Indeed, every issue of the Chronicle contains advertising seeking participants for drug studies far more graphic. In my mind, several Chronicle ads cross over a line and offend. I venture to guess that the Chronicle does not require those who place these ads to have the approval of patient-protection boards. We always have such approval for any ad, whether it be billboard, newspaper, radio, or television, that we run. Further, with regard to the placement of our billboards, Community Clinical Research hires a highly respected advertising agency to oversee all production and ad placement. This agency engages in blanket media buys. Our billboards are placed randomly. We in no way targeted the ARCH. I did not know that a billboard was placed near the shelter until a Chronicle reporter called and told me that one was so placed.

This brings me to the conduct of that reporter [Jordan Smith] and of the Chronicle in general. When the Chronicle reporter contacted me, she allowed me to believe, for at least five minutes, that she was involved in selling advertising for the Chronicle. Once I realized that she was a reporter, I asked her what the problem was. She told me that the ARCH had complained about our billboards. I told her that no one from the ARCH had ever called us. I told her that we were always very concerned that people who suffer from schizophrenia not feel stigmatized and that, if residents in the homeless shelter were uncomfortable because of our billboards, I would arrange to have the billboard removed. I did so immediately after talking to the reporter. The reporter never once questioned me about our practices of recruiting. She never once allowed me to respond to the accusation that people who work for Community Clinical Research enter the ARCH or stand outside of it trying to recruit residents. If she had done so, I would have denied this, and challenged her to do the appropriate investigational work to confirm my denial. Instead, the first time I encountered these charges was when I read them in the Chronicle article that called me and Community Clinical Research "high-priced drug pushers." This is simply shameful behavior on the part of the Chronicle and its reporting staff.

Community Clinical Research is a group of dedicated professionals whose mission and passion is bringing an end to the suffering experienced by people plagued with mental illness. We are strictly monitored. We have instituted additional internal quality-control oversight. People who choose to participate in a clinical trial conducted by Community Clinical Research begin their experience taking part in an extensive informed consent discussion, which includes written documentation, and identifies for them all known risks they may be taking. During participation in a protocol, a patient has access to a variety of health care professionals daily. A patient may end his or her participation at any time. Most participants benefit from their experience; however, if a participant's mental state is not improving or not stable when the participant chooses to end his or her participation, doctors at Community Clinical Research use conventional drug therapy to bring the patient to as stable a state as his or her mental condition allows. In addition, doctors at Community Clinical Research follow all patients after their participation in a clinical drug trial for at least three months. Community Clinical Research employs a van and driver to make access to this follow-up care easy for the patient. One of our nurses even makes home visits, when necessary, to check on the status of participants. We are very proud of our work. At any given time, we are conducting more clinical trials for mental illnesses than what many Texas medical schools conduct. Dr. David Brown, our principal investigator, completed a fellowship in biological psychiatry at the National Institute of Mental Health, taught at a medical school himself, and, among his many community services, has been a volunteer psychiatrist at Seton East. Others in the mental health community often acknowledge both his intelligence and compassion. For more information about us, your readers may explore our Web site, www.communityclinical.com.

I had invited your reporter to come visit our facility, and I had directed her to our Web site. She chose to write her article without taking advantage of these opportunities for appropriate investigational research. Her inflammatory, ridiculous article has hurt a number of serious, dedicated people. I demand on their behalf that you print my letter in its entirety and that you retract the accusations your article has made against Community Clinical Research.

Sincerely,

Kris Brown

[News Editor Michael King responds: The story by Jordan Smith ("Drug Dealers Seek Out Downtown Homeless – With Money and Marketing," News, Nov. 26) described (and reproduced) the Community Clinical Research billboard, reported Kris Brown's responses to questions about the billboard, and also reported that in the wake of the Chronicle's questions and those of the ARCH staff, the billboard had been removed. Ms. Brown says that CCR engages in "none of the recruiting practices which the article catalogues" – except, of course, the now-removed billboard – and indeed, the only such practice attributed to CCR in the story was the billboard itself, along with Brown's statement that she was unaware of the billboard's location. We are happy to reiterate that the particular billboard has been removed, and we hope that CCR's action reflects a renewed sensitivity in such matters. Readers can judge for themselves whether advertising drug trials directly to schizophrenics qualifies as "informational." We do, however, reject categorically her contention that reporter Jordan Smith "allowed [Brown] to believe" that Smith was anything other than a reporter doing her job – as Smith made explicit in her initial call to CCR and in Brown's return call. If there was any brief confusion on that score, it was Brown's alone, and (as she acknowledges) quickly cleared up.]


Information 'Omitted'

Dear Editor,

The Chronicle's Nov. 26 article "Drug Dealers Seek Out Downtown Homeless – With Money and Marketing" [News] omitted an important fact that would have made for a much less sensational read.

The Community Clinical Research schizophrenia billboard on East Seventh Street was part of a citywide recruiting effort that included 12 boards. The locations for those boards were randomly generated via the computerized charting system of the outdoor advertising company that owns the billboards. The locations were spread around the city, including one in Northwest Austin on 620 at 2222.

CCR did not request the East Seventh Street location. This fact extinguishes the fiery accusation that this medical research firm is specifically targeting patrons of the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. That was not their intention.

Sincerely,

Isabel Flores

Account manager

Marketing Creative Solutions Inc.


In Our City Leaders We Want ...

Dear Editor,

I am part of a small business group that asks the same question as Mike Clark-Madison ["Austin@Large," News, Dec. 3]: "What do we want our City Council members to do?"

What we are coming up with is this: We want the best and brightest of those willing and able to reconcile economic vitality with quality of life. We want them to streamline business regulation without unreasonably increasing risk to the public. To encourage development with minimum damage to the environment and cost to the community. To promote affordable housing. To improve the downtown business environment but also keep commercial rents affordable. To maximize the perception of safety in the entertainment districts while providing reasonable support for the homeless. To make traffic go faster. To make parking more friendly. To spend our tax dollars as efficiently as possible. Yadda yadda yadda.

We seem to have consensus in Austin on what we all want. The challenge is figuring out which candidates are best able to get us there. Who best understands the obstacles we have and why they exist? Who knows what remedies have worked in other communities? Who is best able to achieve consensus and action?

We want to help elect leaders who will immerse themselves in the complex issues, search out creative solutions, and seek out fair compromises that reflect our wonderfully diverse community.

Paul Silver


Not Sure of the Point

Dear Editor,

Your cover, showing LCRA water sprouting suburbs, was an effective graphic ["The LCRA Moves to Turn on the Tap," News, Dec. 3]. The sprouted suburbanites should appreciate that downtown (well, only to 38th Street) has mandatory late-night music from kilowatt outdoor venues. In addition, there are loud motorcycles, drunk kids, glass from broken bottles, and an occasional guy running toward a fight with a tire iron. Well, may the dumb sproutees enjoy their LCRA water.

Herbert Ward


New Textbooks Damaging

To the editor,

Re: "Texas Remains Sexless" [News, Nov. 12].

The new textbooks passed by the State Board of Education are going to have serious repercussions in teen pregnancies and STDs. They leave out information about contraception, saying that abstinence is the only way to protect oneself, and by doing so the Board of Education is putting Texas youth at serious risk.

There is no guarantee that teaching "abstinence as the only way to prevent unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases" will scare teens away from having sex. According to Planned Parenthood, "Each year approximately 1 million U.S. teenagers become pregnant." So, when a teen decides to have sex it is important for them to know alternative forms of protection.

Education on contraception is also necessary to protect teens from STDs. The new health books enforce the idea that abstinence is the only form of protection from STDs, when in fact research done by the FDA shows "condoms to be effective against pregnancy, HIV, and gonorrhea." If we discontinue education about contraception as a form of protection from STDs, we may soon be facing the same problem of widespread AIDS as Africa.

What kind of education system are we promoting?

Elizabeth Roberts


What Goes On With Bull Creek?

Dear Editor,

For the last several years, I have watched the Bull Creek Foundation systematically destroy the natural wildlife habitat along Bull Creek as it travels between Spicewood Springs Road, under 360, under 360 again, to the dog park on Lakewood. I would like to know who, specifically, in the Austin Parks Department has given these civilians (noncity employees) the legal right to take their chain saws and shovels and make Bull Creek fit their vision. Apparently, this vision is to sanitize the area by cutting down trees, bushes, grasses, and shrubbery such that no 'coon, 'dillo, deer, snake, frog, fish, butterfly, owl, hawk, rabbit, or any other form of life can sustain itself. In my opinion, this is just a downright crime against nature.

What once used to be the best hiking experience available in Austin is now an experience of pain as we see dead trees everywhere (native as well as nonnative), the steady and systematic elimination of what once was an area teeming with wildlife, and orange ribbon tied around the next trees to fall victim to the chain saws of these misguided people. Shaded sections of the creek which are crucial to fish reproduction have been cleared and opened to almost continual summer sunshine. At the rate they are proceeding, I predict within two or three years, a father will no longer be able to take his son to see a frog, or perhaps a 'coon, 'dillo, or panfish breeding in the waters of Bull Creek. What is the City of Austin Parks Department thinking here? Why are they allowing the destruction of the park? Will they be satisfied when there are 10-foot-wide paved trails for golf carts to travel on? What exactly is the purpose of this madness?

Best regards,

Mike Fitzsimmons


Pedantic Hyperbole

Mr. Black,

According to Andy Langer, the Young Heart Attack's 2004 release, Mouthful of Love, "could've been the last great rock album of 1979" [Music Recommended, Dec. 3].

Oh, really? Here's what would have been YHA's competition (and never mind the fact that these bands toured their asses off in support of said releases, unlike YHA):

The Pretenders – Pretenders; The Clash – London Calling; ZZ Top – Degüello; Iggy Pop – New Values; Cheap Trick – Live at Budokan; Van Halen – II; Led Zep - In Through the Out Door; Pink Floyd – The Wall; Thin Lizzy – Black Rose; The Damned – Machine Gun Etiquette; The Cars – Candy-O; Queen – Live Killers; Knack – Get the Knack; the Who – The Kids Are Alright; the Police – Outlandos d'Amour; Foreigner – Head Games; and last but not least ... AC/DC's Highway to Hell.

Never mind the multiplatinum sales figures for these releases in the wake of YHA's commercial failure. Langer, so careless in his criticism, claims that a band from 2004 – that wouldn't even remotely exist without the stylistic groundwork of a band like AC/DC – is perhaps better than the best studio recording of one of the most influential rock bands in the history of the game. I'm just curious ... could someone wake up and smell the coffee, and then give me a fucking break?

Week after week, the music department's writing reaffirms its irrelevance with absurd hyperbole, among other things.

Sincerely,

Chris Grady


Stinky-Water Concerns

Dear Editor,

I've lived in Austin my entire life and do not recall Austin's water ever having a systemwide "funky dirtlike taste" ["About That Funky Water ...," News, Nov. 19]. Explaining it as being caused by an algae bloom is a bogus excuse. A more realistic explanation is the dynamiting that is being done for development over the aquifer. Recent construction in the Brodie/Slaughter area is directly over caverns leading to underground streams.

Lucy Sparks


Include Artist Noel Waggener

Dear Raoul Hernandez,

Thanks for the informative book review of the monumental Art of Modern Rock: The Poster Explosion ["Rock & Roll Books," Music, Dec. 3].

As you pointed out, Austin has more than its share of talented poster artists, many of whom have had lasting impact on the art form. In your review you forgot to mention the amazing work of Noel Waggener. Among other things, Noel has designed some of the most memorable posters for the Epistrophy Arts concert series. In fact, his amazing design for the the 2002 Mephista (Susie Ibarra, Ikue Mori, Sylvie Courvoisier) concert was selected for this book.

In addition to his prints, Noel is also responsible for the design work on Revenant's magnificent Albert Ayler box set. For a look at Noel's work go to www.subculturepress.com.

Thank You,

P.G. Moreno

Epistrophy Arts


Understanding 'Entertainment'

Dear Editor,

Your critics couldn't pick a good movie if they tried. I don't know where you dig them up, but we have learned to ignore the reviews and make our own assessment. Example: The movie Closer that is the pick of the week is garbage. We walked out in the middle.

However, Christmas With the Kranks was funny and a relief from the techno-blast movies.

Hire a critic that can understand the word entertainment.

David Groening

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Our readers talk back.

July 9, 2004

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A plethora of environmental concerns are argued in this week's letters to the editor.

March 31, 2000

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